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Thursday, May 9, 2013
Straight and narrow pays off for rising CB

By Corey Dowlar

Mike Johnson (Clearwater, Fla./Countryside) now sits as one of the top cornerbacks on the board for several colleges. His rise to this position, though, could have gone much differently.

Johnson wasn't a bad kid by any stretch. But as he got older, and so too did his friends, an increasing amount of trials and temptations presented themselves. Some gave in, but Johnson didn't.

And perhaps his extracurricular activities, most notably football, kept him going in the right direction.

"His social group, when he first came here, has changed dynamically," Countryside coach Jared Davis said. "Some of the guys he identified with as his group of friends have fallen off. Mike could have gone that way. He's maintained his grades and stayed with football. He's been able to see the benefit of that.

"There was some force, could have been family like his cousin Artavis [Scott], kept him on that path. If it was the structure that was provided by football, that'd be great and I would like it to take some credit for that. There was something inside of him somewhere that kept him on the straight and narrow."

Johnson realizes that things could have turned out differently, and he assigns a much bigger value to what future opportunities football can provide.

"It is that desire to be successful," Johnson said. "Without football, I'd be in a hard place. I don't know. I had a lot of friends that were doing bad things and stuff like that."

Schools including Cincinnati, Florida State, Indiana, Iowa State, Louisville, Purdue, USF, Texas Tech, UCF, Vanderbilt and Virginia are heavily pursuing Johnson.

And Johnson’s physical tools are making him stand out.

"I think at his position -- everybody is looking for big corners," Davis said. "Look at the best corners in the NFL right now, everybody is big. You are playing against receivers that are 6-5, 6-4, big guys. Gone are the days of 5-7 corners. They are just not like that anymore. And he's a big guy -- 180 pounds is big for a high school corner. That size thing, and he's not afraid to come up and hit, that combination is a big driving force for him."

But despite his rising stock, the flirtation with college teams isn't all fun and games for Johnson.

"I hate the recruiting process," he said. "You can't tell what they are thinking. They can say one thing, but mean something else. 'Yeah, we want you.' Then, right when they leave, they are like, 'Yeah, we don't want him.' "

That doesn’t mean, however, that some coaches haven’t secured Johnson's trust..

"Coach [Lawrence] Dawsey from FSU, Coach [Sherrone] Moore, Coach [Kirk] Callahan and Coach Woodie from USF," Johnson said are the coaches with whom he has solid relationships.

It'd be easy to assume that because Johnson isn't enamored with the process that he might make an early decision to get it all over with. But that isn't the case. He recognizes what is at stake.

And he's going to take all the time he's allotted to make it.

"I want to take all five of my visits," he said. "I want to make the right choice."

Regardless of where he's going or what is going on now, Countryside's secret is out. Johnson was beginning to emerge last year, but this season everyone is going to know where to find the guy in the No. 1 jersey.

And you won't see many quarterbacks throwing to his half of the field.

"He's going to need to make the best of his chances, because he isn't going to get much," Davis said.

It’s a good thing Johnson is already versed in making the most of his opportunities.